Is snobbery bringing down history?

Recently there’s been an amazing spate of really popularised history media. From the (hysterical!) Cunk on Britain, to Drunk History, and a full on rampage of Philippa Greggory spin offs.

There’s just one thing; none of the above count as history. Well so we’re told…

But I have a question. What makes those, so different to this: 

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The Amazing, Horrible Histories

Guys, I think the only difference might be that Horrible Histories is made for a children and the others are made for an adult audience. When you think about it, that’s kind of messed up…

Now, I love Horrible Histories, it was my gateway drug into history. As a child I spent hours in my local library in a fort made from every Horrible History on the shelf. And now another generation is still discovering how amazing history is through the funny, irreverent and yet oh so informative, Horrible History books, TV programme and plays. Isn’t that just the best?

So why the hell aren’t we allowing adults the same thing?

See, most adults don’t touch history after they leave school. And that’s not because they hate history, it’s because it stopped being fun and became boring.

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Said 80% of people over the age of 18

For a really long time, history’s had a bit of a rep for being stuffy and elitist. Reserved only for those who wear tweed, have an AP accent and know what a Motte and Bailey is (side note- great name for a detective duo btw) 

So for a lot of people, it can seem like if you’re not down for some hardcore documentary action on medieval literature, followed up by a 1000 page (not counting the footnotes) door-stopper on obscure Tudor royals, then history isn’t really here for you.

Now, if you work in or love history, you know thats not true. BUT, lets face facts, its a public image we’re going to have to fight to change.

So why then, when somebody comes along and tries to tackle this and make history super accessible and fun, we don’t jump for joy, but immediately pick it apart?

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Seriously, why I ask you! WHY!

Now, full disclosure: I used to be a nitpicker 

A while ago I worked in a Tudor Palace (natch) and pretty much every day I’d hear visitors excitedly talking about how being there was just like being in a real life episode of the Tudors or stepping into a Philippa Gregory book.

And whenever this happened I’d do the worlds biggest eye roll.

The Tudors? The Other Boleyn Girl? Pfffft, I mean come on, really; it’s dumbed down and totally inaccurate, not exactly ‘proper history’.

But then I realised: without The Other Boleyn Girl, or The Tudors, those people wouldn’t be there at all.

Just like Horrible Histories had been my gateway to history, this was theirs.

These weren’t frivolous bits of fluffs, they were helping people discover a love for history and a want to delve further into it; that’s AMAZING! 

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Seriously though, this show has put so many people onto history!!

Oh, and you know what, when I actually checked out The Tudors and Philips Gregory for myself (because obvs I’d been judging without having tried them) I realised they were incredible pieces of historic entertainment.

See, just like we need magnificently researched academic papers, books and documentaries, we also need entertainment. Not just to help spark peoples historic imaginations, but also because what’s life without a little fun!

Oh, and for those who are screaming: But what about the historical accuracy, won’t someone think of the historical accuracy!?! 

Have a little faith in peoples ability to understand the text in front of them.

When watching something like, Drunk History, people know to take things with a grain of salt, because it’s not a documentary.

So have no fear, nobody thinks Harriet Tubman actually said this:

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But it would have been great if she did

So, next time you see a romping period drama, historical novel, hilarious history sketch show or *ahem* a slightly sweary history blog, don’t just overlook it at first glance.

And, if it’s not your cup of tea, thats totally fine, do you and enjoy the style of history that you enjoy. Just remember, history can be a lot of things to a lot of people, we just need to let people enjoy it.

What do you think? Hit us up in the comments, Twitter or Facebook

How unpaid work is killing off museums

Recently the Victoria and Albert Museum put up a job advert for an unpaid voluntary curatorial role. To land this job you needed, minimum, a masters degree and to be able to work for free.

Obviously as soon as this job advert went live, all of history Twitter protested. 

And the V&A duly apologised, said the whole asking people to work for free thing, had been a huge mistake and took down the job advert.

Fantastic win right? Well, kind of, but it’s also something that happens everyday in the history and heritage sector, it’s just that this one time, it was caught.

But we can’t carry on staying quiet every other time this happens. Because our reliance on these voluntary roles will inevitably end up killing our sector.

Lets look at the average route into a paid role at a museum: 

  • Undergraduate degree (ideally from a top university and in a relevant subject) 
  • Postgraduate degree (again, top uni, relevant subject) 
  • Voluntary roles in museums/archives (for an unspecified time) 
  • Part time/low pay full time role (average 18k) possible volunteering on side
  • Eventually land a full time paid role 

Can you spot the problem here? 

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Spoiler: You don’t need to be a detective to solve this ish

Now, lets not even start to focus on the whole, top university, masters degree minimum thing (though we do know that people from lower income, and also minority backgrounds are very much the minority; in terms of people attending these institutions) 

BUT can we all agree that the industry is currently asking candidates to do a metric shit ton of free work, before they can even be considered for a job.

It is insanity and it is not ok! 

By asking for so much free work, swathes of people are immediately being cut out.

It becomes not so much a matter of – who is the best for the role – and more a case of, who can afford to not get paid and still pay their rent and eat!

Spoiler: it’s probably not going to be the candidate from a minority or lower income background.

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Straight up!

But it’s not just that it’s far from an even playing field.

History needs diversity to survive 

There are two key reasons for this: 

  1. People are interested in a more diverse look at history 
  2. Museum visitor figures are falling. Too help tackle this, we need to start engaging with new audiences and communities. 

Museums have to start hiring people with a diverse range of experiences. People that can research other annals of history, give a different perspective on well trodden ground and develop ways of bringing new communities to museums.

If history and heritage starts to do this, not only will it help ensure that we as sector survive; it will make history thrive.

But how can we actually do this? 

Well, we need to ditch our dependance on voluntary roles.

Now I know nobody has a magical money tree, but we can’t have diversity if we don’t actually make museums a viable career for more people.

So lets wave bye bye to this attitude to free work: 

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Bye bye privilege fuckery!

Now thats out the way, lets say hello to:

Paid Internships and Apprenticeships!

Yup, you read that right. Paid. Minimum the living wage (£17k, and £20k for London)

By offering paid work, we’ll be able to access a broader pool of candidates than ever before. People who can bring something new and exciting to the table.

Plus we’ll actually be paying people for the hard work they do, and thats just basic ethics.

Apprenticeships can also help bring in people from the local community that maybe don’t have the degree, but that do have everything else you need to be an incredible curator, historian, conservator, etc.

Now, paying people means that budgets in other areas may need to be cut.

This is definatley something the bigger museums and heritage organisations can start to do, but understandably this isn’t something smaller museums can click their fingers and do overnight.

Long term budget changes will need to be planned out, grants may need to be applied for; it will be a ball ache and it will take a long time.

BUT it will be worth it. 

We can’t keep on blocking out the future, just because we’ve always done something one way, doesn’t mean we should continue doing it… guys we work in history, we know this.

So, lets keep on calling for diversity. Lets call out bullshit free work job adverts. If you can, start a conversation about bringing in paid internships into your department. Go to local schools and communities and find ways to bring them into your museum.

History should be everyone’s story, it should be open to everyone and we need to start making that a reality; it’s just good business. 

For more F Yeah History, check us out here on Twitter and Facebook.

Why 2018 is the year to MAKE history

So 2017… bit of a clusterfuck.

We have a US President, who is accused of sexual assault (among maaaaaany other problematic things), a whole litany of sexual assault charges against power players the world over, an all time high of food bank usage in the UK and… honestly way too many other shit storms to count.

2018 couldn’t come any sooner right?

In the world of history, 2018 is an incredibly exciting year because it’s the centenary of women starting to get the vote; cue TONS of amazing exhibitions, books and events all about women’s history.

But here’s the thing that makes 2018 all the more exciting:

2018 isn’t just the year to celebrate history…it’s the year to make history. 

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Fists in the air guys, time to shake shit up

 

So how can we make history in 2018? Well there’s two main ways:

1. Celebrating forgotten history:

Arguably the lions share of recorded history is about white men. Now don’t get me wrong, white men are (mainly) fine, but they aren’t the only people.

You cannot be what you cannot see; without knowing where we’re from and how we came to be, there’s no way that we can ever truly reach equality.

So then, it’s amazing that in 2018 the story of thousands of women who struggled for equal voting rights is going to be told and celebrated.

Their struggle will be introduced to countless people who had no idea of the work that went into getting the vote. Thousands of little girls and boys will get a new inspiration and that in turn will show them how possible it is to make change in their own lives.

Now imagine that nugget of historic inspiration x100.

That’s the goal.

Because there are millions of stories just waiting to be told. Forgotten history that gives roots to communities across the world

So what can we do to make this happen?

  • Get involved: If you have a local museum, get stuck in and make shit happen!You can write to them directly or do an open letter explaining how essential (and good for business…) diversifying their output is.
  • Team Up: If you’re part of a local group (e.g. LGBT service) then contact your local museum and work with them to get minority history on their agenda and in their collection.
  • Hit the books: Contact your local library and see what local history they have. Trawl through their archives and books and see if you can work together to arrange talks and events around minority and forgotten history.
  • Speak out: We have never had a bigger platform to speak out on than right now. And that platform, is of course the internet. If you know about an amazing chapter in history, then say something! Spread the word on your social platforms; I guarantee people would rather read your post on ass kicking history than your second cousins rant about their ex.

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    Seriously, is there any better example of the difference speaking out makes than this fella?

Step number 2 on making history in 2018…

2. GET OUT THERE

2018 is going to be full of more hurdles; more Trump, more horrifying assault charges, more cuts to benefits and rights, all around: more shit.

Now we can run away from this OR we can look to history and channel our inner Emmeline Pankhurst’s, Millicent Fawcett’s and Josephine Butler’s.

Personally I’m team carry on the legacy and do some ass kicking.

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Preach

Josephine Butler is a great example of a kickass lady to channel this 2018.

Josephine led a huge campaign against the 1864 Contagious Dieseases Act (a law that allowed any woman to be subject to a forced internal examination that was likened to rape)

She banded together with other campaigners, wrote, spoke and marched against the act. It was a long journey, but they won. Not only scrapping the act but also paving the way for future women’s rights campaigns (e.g. suffrage)

As we enter another year of of fighting for female sexual rights, I can’t think of a better lady to inspire; showing that no matter how long or hard our fight; it can be won.

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Living by this in 2018

So what can we do to make this happen?

  • Boots on the ground: Look out for protests and campaigns that need support (or start your own…) follow campaign groups on social media for up to date information on their plans.
  • Take to the internet and spread the word: sign petitions, write to your MP, start conversations and make yourself heard! Not everyone can physically go out and protest so the internet is a great way for all voices to be heard!
  • Get out in your area: Be it by joining a political party you believe in or a volunteering at a local women’s shelter. Your time and energy will make a difference.

Let’s get out there and make history in 2018.

If we don’t stop fighting, we’re going to kill women’s history

An upcoming statue of Millicent Fawcett, in Londons Parliament Square, is causing a whole lot of commotion in the world of history (we do love an argument!)

The first uproar was when the press labelled Fawcett a suffragette (I also jumped in on this; never one to miss a good argument on the importance of recognising the difference between suffragette and suffragist)

Then the second uproar; did Millicent Fawcett even deserve the statue?

The incredible and very eminent historian, June Purvis, wrote an article for The Guardian titled:
A suffragist statue in Parliament Square would write Emmeline Pankhurst out of history

This article was met with a letter arguing that Purvis had it all wrong; Millicent Fawcett deserved the statue….because she was a way better suffrage leader than Emmeline Pankhurst!

It’s playground politics with PHDs

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And its not getting us anywhere…

There are currently eleven statues in Parliament Square, ranging from Churchill to Nelson Mandela. They represent eleven men who made a huge historical impact…nobody is arguing which man deserves his place in the square, or in history.

Equally nobody believes that because these men have statues in this one place, that automatically writes out the work of their contemporaries; of course it doesn’t, that would make no logical sense.

Just because this one plot of land doesn’t have space, doesn’t mean history itself is full up; there’s room to celebrate all these men.

And guys….mic drop moment:

We can do this with women too!

As women we’re conditioned to pick just one; there are so few mainstream female history heroes that we don’t want our favourite to be forgotten.

We want our woman to finally receive the attention and accolades that have for so long been overlooked… if statues, exhibits and books, that we believe should focus on her achievements, start to look elsewhere, then that surely jeopardises her place in history.

This is a more than understandable view. But the more we play into it, the more we’re worsening the already dire situation that is women’s history.

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A relatively accurate example of walking into the current women’s history landscape.

In 2016 I spent one of the bleakest days of my life roaming the streets of London asking people to name just three women from history for a video.

You guys… they didn’t know any.

When asked to name 3 women from history off the top of their heads, most people got to 2 and then couldn’t think any further. Those 2 women were always from this list:

– Queen Elizabeth l
– Queen Victoria
– Florence Nightingale

We also got one errant Catherine of Aragon and an ‘Emily’ Pankhurst.

Even using pictures people struggled, with one guy mistaking Ada Lovelace for Kim Kardashian.

Like I said, it was a bleak day… but it was also totally normal.

From our little history bubble, we often forget that most people don’t come across women’s history on the day to day; and the history they do have access to is really limited.

There aren’t a whole lot of public sources dedicated to womens history. The history taught in schools tends to revolve around the same 3 or 4 women, mainstream history documentaries and books spreads that net a little wider, but it often stays within the pool of Queens, six wives and modern history. And we sadly know the current state of womens history museums all too well (looking at you Jack The Ripper museum!)

So how do we change this? 

Well we can’t – unless people are allowed access to a diverse range of women from history.

And yes, this might sometimes mean it feels like your favourite gets sidelined for anouther woman… but you know what, that’s ok, it’s good.

Take for example, Ada Lovelace (not to be confused with Kim Kardashian…)

Over the last few years, mainstream history has been slowly re-disocvering Ada and her work. It’s inspired documentaries, exhibits, graphic novels and this girls amazing costume:

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Come on, don’t you want a parade of kick ass historical women every Halloween???

Ada Lovelace cementing her place in mainstream history has not written anyone else out. Rather it’s opened up the door for more of histories forgotten women. Its a chance to tell the stores of the Josephine Butlers of the world, the Ellen Wilkinsons and Coretta Scott Kings.

Because, we can have more than one.

We can have both Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett without them cancelling each other out. We can celebrate both women, whilst acknowledging that they may have shared an end goal, but they had very different methods on how to get there!

If we put up a statue to Millicent Fawcett, that won’t create a collective amnesia; we’ll still remember Emmeline Pankhurst, but we might also start to discover a wider suffrage story; the suffragists as well as the suffragettes, the women of colour whose role in the movement is so often overlooked, and the the thousands upon thousands of forgotten working class women; without out whom there wouldn’t have been a movement at all.

I don’t know about you, buts thats the kind of women’s history I’m interested in; not one woman, but every woman.

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